Independent branding of microlots – Aida Batlle and “Los Luchadores”

I read as much as I can these days to try and keep abreast of what is going on and today I stumbled across something very interesting that Peter Giuliano had written.

When I was with Aida in Salvador in January, we talked about her identifying really awesome coffees she came across as “Aida’s Selections”, and brand them as such. She would be acting like a wine negociant, finding great coffees and snatching them away from the mill before they are processed. We brainstormed on some “mill mark” type names that could cover certain coffees. Her favorite was “Los Luchadores”, a reference to the Lucha Libre wrestlers so popular in Latin America. We thought it would be perfect for a Pacamara.

Now this to me is interesting on a number of levels. With the recent discussions about Ken Davids, reviewing of espressos and other coffees – which is essentially a form of endorsement – this throws up a different possibility. There is a slow growing number of people gaining recognition for their work the other side of the roastery – and while some like Peter Giuliano and Geoff Watts are attached to one particular company there are others with growing profiles like Aida who could effect some sort of influence on to the consumer. To me this also suggests another possible role – the freelance traveller/cupper working through origins and essentially branding high quality lots with their mark that would then likely add a premium to the lot, paid by interested (likely micro-)roasters. Not quite the Man from Del Monte but I am sure you get the general idea. (I will be jealous if anyone does manage to pull this off!)

There is increasing pressure on the Specialty community to find unique, high quality lots and many simply do not have the resources to travel the globe shopping for coffees (certainly the fledgling roasteries). Direct relationships are undeniably desirable/preferable, for the most part anyway, and of course marks or brands like this are not a solution but if we are out to reward quality perhaps they are another weapon in the armoury.

I would be interested in hearing other people’s opinions on this and its potential implications.

6 Comments

  1. But wait… Isn’t this almost the same as Mercanta does?
    During the past years I have seen an increase in small roasters buying from Mercanta and using it like a stamp of quality. I have met people from around the world who presents themselves with the following sentence:
    “Hello, I am Mr. X. I have a la marzocco, a mahlk√∂nig and a probat roaster. I buy specialty coffee from Mercanta”

    I have also met farmers who say they sell to Starbucks, Solberg & Hansen, Mercanta or similar, and by doing so trying to get more interest in their coffees.

    BTW I just had a cup of Aida’s gran reserve, and it is a very delicate thing. Very well balanced and complex fruit notes. I just can’t seem to describe the exact fruits I am smelling… Frustrating.

    ciao

  2. Hi there…ohmmm well as far as i see it she is not trying to “endorse” anything but high quality coffee… are we looking for something different here? As far as i know Peter is telling a story not creating the Aida’s seal for quality… and i bet she isn’t a grower that presents herself as S&H grower approved!

    What i think we have here is a merely case of quality discovering by a killer duo, Peter and Aida… who are supporting other growers, probably smaller ones, to get out of the shadows by creating a brand with their product… and I bet they reward them properly… however there’s something with the wording: wine negociant that left me with some “off notes” here… probably because i’m on a beer phase now…anyway, maybe Aida or Peter can give us their view on this so i can shut up…

  3. Just to be clear here…this particular coffee is also sold with the producer’s name, Samuel Valiente. Just so there is no confusion about that.

    But anyway, I think this sort of thing is very interesting…and yes, I think Tim is right, that importers like Mercanta (and, say, Tim Castle) have the added bonus that their name adds value to a coffee once it is associated with it. This idea has been around for a long time, whether it is a business or not. Fact is, when any coffee is associated with a well-known person, whether that person be a cup of excellence winner or barista champion or chef or sports hero or whatever, it lends interest to the brand. I use the “sports hero” thing on purpose. The famous American baseball player Jackie Robinson had a son, David, who moved to Tanzania into a coffee community. David worked to organize his neighbors into a coffee cooperative. Now, many baseball stadiums in the United States serve the coffee grown in that community in Tanzania simply because of David’s connection with his father… it doesn’t really make any sense, there is no quality stamp, it’s just an association, but all this helps raise awareness that coffee relies on PEOPLE at every step in the chain, and these people have names…

    Anyway, as for James’ original question, I do think there might be a place for a sort of independent quality assessor that small roasters use to learn about origin. As Tim says, this has been the role of the importer for a long time, but they have a specific and very particular interest in the coffee. I always thought that the Cup of Excellence would serve that role for small roasters, although few use it that way, but that might be a result of the “jury” nature of the COE.

    Interesting thoughts, all.

    Peter G

  4. May I just add a few small thoughts here….
    I think the relatively piddling consumption within the UK of specialty grade coffee is one hurdle.
    The general lazyness and lack of will to invest in quality from the roasting community and the political knocking coffee takes….is enough of an excuse to be a deterant.
    Don’t read into this too much, I am trying to say more things than I can and should without really saying them as usual!
    P.S. Just received a personal (40Kg) shipment from Harare today, with some complimetary incense. Thanks to my traveling friends!

  5. Hello (health warning – the author of this message cannot be considered neutral)

    Let me ‘weigh in’ here. Thanks to Tim and Peter for recognising that this is indeed exactly what Mercanta does.

    Specialty roasters wish to roast a wide selection of the finest available specialty coffees

    Containerised (250-300 bag shipments) are far and away the safest and most cost effective manner of movement (air transport of raw coffee is extremely expensive to say nothing of the environmental implications)

    Specialty roasters wish to know exacting and intimate details of the source / provenance of their coffees

    There is no absolute truth in the coffee business except that found on the cupping table

    So, we employ a cross section of experienced, and I hope well respected cuppers, (4 of whom have Cup of Excellence experience), and spend 100% of our time sourcing, finding, selecting, and cupping a mind boggling array of single estate, co-op, and grower groups specialty coffees that would generally score 80 and above on any comparative cupping analysis. We then purchase and import these lots (sometimes very small lots combined to make up a larger cargo) from trusted established and new sources to retain a relatively large inventory (constantly rotated) of considerable variety of the world’s best coffees – ready to be delivered pretty much anywhere on the planet that a specialty roaster is based.

    The ‘branding’ of specialty coffees – microlots or larger, estates or co-op produced is exactly what will continue to develop in the specialty coffee world in the coming years – just like (yawn – not that again; wine, micro brew beer, Scotch whisky, etc).

    Someone mentioned the Man from Del Monte – perhaps, but we have often used the Intel Inside analogy. A crucial piece of contents of no particular value in itself but fundamental to a superior finished product. Our brand represents all that goes into bringing small quantities of high vaule, high quality coffees to the worlds most demanding audience.

    Stephen

  6. Dearest beloved in Him
    Loving greetings!

    Be blessed! May the Lord bless your ministries that after your ministry will never be the same again amen.

    Your brother and friend Pastor Shahzad Rasheed
    The Royal Ambassadors Free Bible Ministries

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